Archive | Reliability


2:37 pm
March 13, 2017
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On The Floor: One Question, Lots of R&M Tips and Tricks

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Sharing proven R&M tips and tricks can make life easier (and happier) in all plants.

Sharing proven R&M tips and tricks can make life easier (and happier) in all plants.

As the headline on this page notes, we posed just one question to MT Reader Panelists this month. It must have been a good one: Oh, how they came through with answers (lots of them). 

Q. What was their (or a client’s/customer’s) top reliability or maintenance tip or trick and why?

To be clear, we also asked respondents to discuss the value their submitted tips or tricks have for their organizations (or their clients/customers) and how they might be of value to other Reliability and Maintenance (R&M) pros, regardless of industry sector. Edited for brevity and clarity, here’s what several Panelists shared.

College Electrical Lab, Manager/Instructor, West…

Knowledge of process equipment is one of the most important pieces of data needed for trouble shooting. We developed a program supported by skilled technicians that we do weekly with our newer crews: One of the experts on a piece of equipment will take two or three other technicians to the equipment and discuss how the equipment works, past problems, past solutions, troubleshooting concepts, equipment-danger symptoms, etc. This process is similar to a doctor’s morning hospital rounds with medical residents. The program has been very effective in reducing downtime.

Industry Consultant, Northeast…

The neatest trick that I’ve ever used in explaining equipment problems is to look at the machine with a strobe light. Freeze the image (set the strobe frequency) at the frequency of the peak vibration, then shift the strobe frequency by 10 or 20 cpm and focus on the machine. You’ll be able to see the relative movement and it gives a “real time” ODS (operating deflection shape). Using this, my clients have seen coupling torsional vibration waves in tank-mounted bases that are 1/4-in. high.

Maintenance Leader, Discrete Mfg, Midwest…

I would say, once you find a program that works, stick to it. As I’ve mentioned in past MT Reader Panel discussions, we had struggled with our R&M and PM programs for years. The company finally brought in a consultant who listened to the end users (the trades people). When the resulting program was rolled out and the maintenance team saw that their ideas and suggestions had been included, they took ownership of it. Before, whenever “flavors of the month” were rolled out, they were introduced as, “this is the program, and this the way it’s going to be done.” And they generally failed.

Industry Consultant, Mexico…

My top tip is to review asset history (at least a year’s worth) to detect major and repetitive failures, through statistical analysis, and using paretos, compare with the PMs to assure you have specific procedures to attack potential failures.

Technical Supervisor, Public Utility, West… 

In the power-generation industry, one of the most valuable assets is the (GSU) generation step-up transformer. The lead-time to replace a failed transformer is very long, and the chance of a failed unit causing a catastrophic fire is high. The electrical-power industry has developed online monitoring systems that monitor partial-discharge (PD) activity on transformer internals and high-voltage (HV) bushings. This monitoring equipment is “cheap insurance” that can detect problems and alarm on transformer or bushing internal issues. That can prevent transformer and bushing failures and keep the generating units operating safely. 

Industry Consultant, International…  

While this may not be a tip or trick, as such, I’ve found that equipment ownership and assigning operator responsibility can pay big dividends and drive reliability-cost improvement when properly applied. I may have mentioned this in previous MT Reader Panel discussions, but one of my major clients established an “Equipment Ownership Program” where operators, sometimes in partnership with a maintenance person, “owned” the equipment. The program was confined to critical equipment elements involving major production units, not just any items. These positions eventually became highly sought after. Maintenance personnel still handled overhauls, supervised lube programs, and dealt with major repair situations, of course. Equipment uptime improved dramatically.

CBM Specialist, Power Generation, South… 

While performing thermal imaging, I use a high-definition, name-brand camera that normally operates in the automatic mode. I, however, like to obtain most images using the manual mode. Here’s my timesaving tip: To quickly obtain the correct span for an image, I fill the viewfinder with the desired image. The camera will automatically select the desired span. Pressing the manual button simply locks in the span that has been acquired by the automatic function of the camera. This will provide an object of interest with a span very close to what is desired. It’s a simple way to adjust the span of the camera and provide a fast, accurate thermal image.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities,  Midwest…  

I recommend using a pocket-sized laser thermometer (that fits in your shirt pocket) because it’s easier to carry (and not forget). Mine has a range of  –22 F to 932 F, which covers most temperatures that our maintenance personnel confront. It also has an AA battery (not the button style). On a related note, you can convert any type of expandable pocket tool into an easy-to-carry expandable ruler. Using a scribe/awl or etching tool, simply mark your distances on the tool when it is fully extended. I’ve picked up many of those types of tools as tradeshow giveaways over the years.

Industry Consultant, Southeast…

What a couple of our clients have recently found helpful is the idea of a line-of-sight through their businesses from top to bottom (strategic direction) and bottom-to-top (performance management). As they plan maintenance, this concept is helping them to think of why they need an asset, what performance it needs to deliver, and how they determine that it’s not performing adequately (through SCADA, field inspection, notification from Operations and/or Engineering). This is allowing them to define what type of maintenance an asset needs, what data they need to collect prior to doing preventive maintenance, what data they need to document while inspecting for the need for corrective maintenance, and, getting all of that configured in their work-management system. 

The line-of-sight aspect focuses the conversation on why: why are you inspecting that asset, why are you doing that every six months, why are you collecting that piece of data. 

The result of one of those conversations was that tracking the physical condition using inspections and a 1-to-5 score wasn’t particularly helpful. What they really needed were notifications from Operations personnel, who observed the asset in the field and were the first to know that it wasn’t performing or able to perform its service function.

Not to worry

Although we couldn’t include every tip or trick our Panelists submitted, we’re not done with them. We’ll be using their additional recommendations and — I hope — some from you non-Panelists, in another way.

Check out below to learn how everyone can participate in “MT’s Tip of the Month” program. MT

Introducing MT’s “Tip of the Month” Program

As a reliability and/or maintenance (R&M) professional, do you have a tip (or many) that could provide value for others working in the field? Is it a quick, proven problem solution, a clever workaround, or a better way to perform a task, evaluate a situation, document an issue, or communicate information? Please tell us about it and why it could help other R&M pros. We’ll be posting these tips online, and select one each month to publish in this space. Anything goes, as long as it’s work related.

Email your tips to Be sure to include your full contact information (name, title, organization, location, phone, and email) in case we need to reach you. That’s the only way we’ll consider posting and/or possibly selecting your submission as a “Tip of the Month.” (If you wish to remain anonymous, we’ll honor your request. We still need your contact info, however.) And, no, you do not have to be a member of the MT Reader Panel to contribute. We look forward to receiving your tips!


2:59 pm
March 8, 2017
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RDI Technologies’ Iris M Lets You See Subtle, Yet Harmful, Machine Motion

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 9.05.22 AMRDI Technologies (Knoxville, TN), says “seeing is believing” when it comes to the company’s Iris M powered by Motion Amplification video-processing product and software package. The patented technology measures subtle machinery motion (including deflection, displacement, movement, and vibration) and amplifies that motion to a level that’s visible to the naked eye (see example application video). Every pixel becomes a sensor, creating millions of data points in an instant.

According to RDI, the user simply has to point the camera at an asset, obtain the video data, and push a button to amplify the true motion of the entire field of view. By drawing a box anywhere in the image, he/she can then measure the motion with a time waveform and frequency spectrum.

Editor’s Note: A recently released Stabilization Update software module for the Iris M powered by Motion Amplification package allows users to  stabilize video that contains motion from camera shake due to environments where ground vibration is unavoidable (see video). In addition to automatically stabilizing based on the entire image, this update features an option to draw a Region of Interest (ROI) in the image that the user knows to be stationary. This helps in complicated motion environments.

For more information, CLICK HERE.


6:39 pm
February 10, 2017
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Infrared Inspections Of Installed Motors

By Jim Seffrin, Infraspection Institute

randmDespite the important role they play in facilities, electric motors often tend to be out of sight and out of mind—until they fail. Infrared thermography can be a cost-effective diagnostic tool for detecting problems within these systems.

Many infrared (IR) inspection programs focus on motor control circuits, but overlook the actual motors. Infrared inspections of a motor’s bearings and stator should be performed monthly by an experienced, certified IR thermographer that thoroughly understands the theory and operation of electric motors.

Here are the basic steps for performing this type of inspection:

1. Inspect motor casing for localized hotspots that may be indicative of short circuits within motor windings.

2. Qualitatively compare individual motors to similar motors under similar load.

3. When possible, qualitatively compare inboard and outboard bearings for each motor. If a large Delta T is present, it may be indicative of misalignment or a rotor balance problem. If both bearings are hot, the bearings may be worn or improperly lubricated.

4. Additionally, a thermographic inspection of the electrical connections within the motor junction box should be performed annually. This may be done in conjunction with a regularly scheduled IR inspection of the facility’s electrical system.

Because no complicated analysis is required, infrared inspections typically can be performed rapidly and at a fraction of the cost of other types of motor testing. Infrared can also detect evidence of misalignment at lower thresholds than those detectable by vibration analysis and motor-current signature analysis. MT

Words to the Wise: Stick to Facts

0217rmcinfraWhen used as a preventive/predictive maintenance tool, infrared (IR) thermography can detect and document evidence of thermal patterns and temperatures across the surface of an object. The presence of inexplicable thermal anomalies or exceptions is often indicative of incipient failures within inspected systems and structures. Because thermography alone can’t determine the cause of an exception, other diagnostic tools must be employed.

Some thermographers, however, provide opinions as to the cause of exceptions without the benefit of confirming test information. Such opinions are frequently accompanied by elaborate recommendations for repair. When those observations/recommendations are incorrect, they can cause repair efforts to be misdirected.

Unless a thermographer has performed, or has access to, confirming tests, it’s unwise to provide opinions regarding the cause of exceptions and offer suggestions for repair. Lacking confirming test data, a prudent thermographer should make only one recommendation: “Investigate and take appropriate action.”

This simple recommendation can be applied to any thermographic inspection and serves to avoid unnecessary liability by eliminating guesses and sticking to facts.

— J.S.

Jim Seffrin, a practicing thermographer with 30+ years of experience in the field, was appointed to the position of Director of Infraspection Institute, Burlington, NJ, in 2000. This article is based on one of his “Tip of the Week” posts on For more information on infrared applications, as well details on upcoming training and certification opportunities, email or visit


8:24 pm
February 9, 2017
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Listen for Impact

Above. Josh Mattson's desktop computer screen displays dB data collected from ultrasound probes that feed software to generate an oil-analysis report. Oil analysis has become a big part of reliability best practices at USG Interiors by providing insight as to when to filter oil, change oil, identify early signs of failure, or use to assist in analyzing data from other technologies such as ultrasound or vibration monitoring.

Josh Mattson’s desktop computer screen displays dB data collected from ultrasound probes that feed software to generate an oil-analysis report. Oil analysis has become a big part of reliability best practices at USG Interiors by providing insight as to when to filter oil, change oil, identify early signs of failure, or use to assist in analyzing data from other technologies such as ultrasound or vibration monitoring.

Josh Mattson drives key reliability programs using ultrasound and root-cause analysis. Continue Reading →